HRCP seminar concludes Pakistan and Taliban cannot co-exist

Press Release, April 5

LAHORE: The people of Pakistan cannot accept peace at the cost of surrendering citizens’ rights to militant groups, a seminar organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Sunday observed. It concluded that Pakistan and Taliban cannot co-exist.

The speakers at the seminar, “Militancy in FATA and Swat: Impact and remedies”, said that the militants in Swat and FATA were not all indigenous. Militants from other parts of the country and foreigners were imposed on them. They emphasised that in Swat conflict could be over soon if the government and the military were determined and sincere. However, they said that such determination and sincerity were not in evidence. They said the military operation in Swat had been a failure and had only caused large-scale suffering and displacement for the civilian population.

They said that the government had failed in its primary responsibility of protecting the lives, liberty and property of citizens.

Speakers hailing form Swat and the tribal areas said that the militancy had spilled over from those areas and now the whole of NWFP was at its mercy.

They said that alienation had grown among the residents of the affected areas, who think that there is a lack of care in addressing their suffering.

They said the militancy will spread to all parts where there was a lack of governance and failure to implement rule of law and constitutional guarantees. Pakistan’s Northern Areas, could be the next target.

All speakers vehemently criticised the so-called peace deal struck with militants in Swat and emphasised that it was regrettable that a government bargained with such elements who had no respect for basic rights. They highlighted that even though the residents of Swat have suffered the most at the hands of militants, not a single person from Swat had been consulted before striking a deal. They said the contents of the “peace deal” violated the constitution and law of Pakistan.

Speakers from the tribal areas said the State had left the citizens and armed private lashkars to shoulder the responsibility of law and order and confront the militants. This has also increased militarisation of society, which will further disturb peace.

They said even though the legal vacuum in their areas had not caused the militancy, it had certainly been used as a justification to give militants a foothold in the area. They added that laws allowing collective punishment in FATA had no precedent in the civilised world.

The speakers unanimously agreed that the ideas of Taliban and the people of Pakistan were incompatible. They urged the government to ensure that Pakistan’s interest takes precedence in Islamabad’s dealings with other partners in the so-called war on terror and come up with a comprehensive policy to ensure that security is not achieved at the cost of sovereignty or human rights.

The role of the media in glorifying militants was criticised and the importance of calling a militant a militant was emphasised.

Speakers included Asma Jahangir, Iqbal Haider, Sher Muhammad Khan, Kamran Arif, Waseem Shah, Zarteef Afridi, Ihsanullah Afridi, Shaukat Saleem and Zainul Abideen.

Afzal Khan Lala addressed the seminar on phone from his native Swat, which he has refused to abandon in the face of extremist threats.

I. A. Rehman

Secretary-General

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